by Rhea Beaudry, guest blogger
Easter season brings us to a place of new life and new hope. As we have traveled along the path of life, we have encountered many things that have tried to destroy both life and hope. Some of us have had losses too deep to put into words, others have had trials, testings and hard times that have seemed to rob our joy and hope from us. At times we have been tempted to despair, give up, and run the other way. Our dreams and hopes have been buried in a tomb and covered over with a stone. The darkness has grown blacker and thicker around us. BUT GOD sends a new dawn! Look up! The sun is rising. A new day is being born.
Let’s walk together through the restoration and recovery process with someone who knew well the sorrowful path of crushed dreams; yet never lost hope! A “man after God’s own heart” who was dashed but not destroyed, bent but not broken, stricken but not stopped.
Let’s take a look at 1 Samuel 30.
1David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.
Ziklag means “winding road”. The Amelakites means “Dwellers in the Valley. David was in an extreme crisis situation, and he was at an extreme low point. He was living and moving in “The land of in-between”, a period of transition. He had received the promises of God, and he had been anointed for his destiny; but he was in that trying position of transition between the anointing and the realization of the Lord’s plan for him. It went on and on, month after grueling month. He was not yet at the place of ruling the people, as the Lord had promised; but instead was on the run from the very ones he longed to serve. The future had been declared, but the old things had not yet gone and the new things had not yet been born. It was a place of wilderness in which God was David’s only strength. It was a blind trust, since he could not yet see the victorious end or even begin to see a change. Unlike us, who have read the end of the story, David did not know how this story would end. He felt isolated and abandoned. Yet he had loyal men who stayed with him even when the ones he most wanted to serve wanted to destroy him. In his distress he chose to trust Him and continue on in his journey. It could NOT have been an easy choice…especially when he saw that even full-hearted obedience to the Lord did not guarantee protection for him, his wives, his children, and his followers. They still came under enemy attack, despite his godly choices.
3When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.
I. David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. He knew that there was no other source of strength for him. He took command over his own spirit. Psalm 42:5-8 describes this type of self-discipline. “Why are you so downcast O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You… The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me.” He chose to cling to God, Who promises “beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning” (Isaiah 61:3) In nature, we see in the instinctual behavior of animals and birds, how the spirit of the Lord is the one who knows at all times what is best for them, and puts within them the urge to do what is right. People could move in the will of God in this way also if they didn’t allow their free will to choose self instead of God. God orders the events of history and of our lives just as much as His orders the annual migration of the birds. But he does not force us to do His will. He allows us to choose.
7Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, 8and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”
“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”
II. David enquired of the Lord his God. This was his first recourse, not his last recourse. He instinctively and immediately went to ask God what He would have him do in this situation. He did not take matters into his own hands, even when there seemed no hope to accomplish that for which he had been anointed. David left it to God to build, or to destroy and work good out of evil as He saw fit, and in His time. David could not always see what good could possibly come from the things that were happening. He chose to trust God and obey Him regardless of the cost or time factor. The Lord’s ways were trusted as the best, even when they were hidden.
9David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind. 10Two hundred of them were too exhausted to cross the valley, but David and the other four hundred continued the pursuit.
David showed wisdom and compassion to his followers, allowing some to remain behind and “stay with the stuff”. He knew which men had the necessary strength for the task, and which had a lesser amount of energy remaining from all that they had already done in his service, and he ministered to them accordingly, placing them in the positions which fitted them.
11They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat— 12part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights. 13David asked him, “Who do you belong to? Where do you come from?”
He said, “I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. 14We raided the Negev of the Kerethites, some territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.”
15David asked him, “Can you lead me down to this raiding party?”
He answered, “Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.”
16He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. 17David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. 18David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”
III. David engaged the enemy. He got up from his place of mourning and discouragement and he pursued the enemy who had robbed him of his possessions and all he held dear. It was not in his own strength that he now moved, but in the strength he had gathered from the Lord. All that remained was for him to step out in obedient faith in order for the Lord to bring the victory.
21Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. 22But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”
23David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
26When David reached Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the Lord’s enemies.”
27David sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; 28to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa 29and Rakal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; 30to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athak 31and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where he and his men had roamed.
IV. David re-gathered and restored his team. He was inspired to treat his followers fairly in telling them to share and share alike. All members of the team would share in the reward. The ones in the front line of battle were not more important than those who remained behind to “stay with the stuff”. Each had a part to play in the victory, which was not theirs after all, but God’s. Even within David’s team of loyal warriors there were some who were weaker. They were all doing the work of the ministry, however, and they all equally received the blessings and rewards. God actually used the weak as well as the strong to accomplish His mission, and the rewards were divided evenly between the strong and those who were too weary for the battle. This is sometimes hard for us to understand. People can be at opposite ends of a spectrum but God loves them all the same. He loves those at both extremes and those in the middle who appear to be sitting and doing nothing.
A new dawn of hope had arisen for David and all of his mighty men. God had won the victory for them. They had recovered ALL that they had lost, and had gained much more. Their community, or team, was made stronger for the days ahead by their experience of seeing the Lord go forth on their behalf. Learning to share in the rewards equally with the stronger and the weaker among them kept them humble and united under God’s leadership and the excellence of spirit and obedience demonstrated by David.
Let’s pray together: Lord, there are times in our lives when we come to a deep dark wilderness experience such as David and his men found themselves in when Ziklag was destroyed. Perhaps some of us are in such a time right now…weighed down by grief, misunderstood by others, pursued and attacked for things we didn’t do, or suffering from ailments and weaknesses that seem to have no resolution. Lord, help us as we struggle with the destruction and plundering of our particular Ziklag. Shine Your light of truth upon us when we feel that we have lost everything. We humbly submit to Your plan of action, knowing that You love us and have a plan for us that is good, not evil. We draw together in unity as a group, Lord, and we receive the assignments You place upon each of us. Some might appear to have bigger, more important jobs to do than others; but in Your plan all are equally important and necessary, and needed to complete the mission at hand. When some appear to be tired and weakened, others will bless them, cover them and rise up in strength. We are all on the team together, and You love us all. We choose to draw our strength and courage from You, Lord. We seek You for Your will and Your plan of action, and then we choose to step out in obedience and trust as You lead us. We give You the glory and the praise, for the outcome is in Your hand. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.